I was all set to write about the Business of Diversity, but after spending time with our colleagues who worked to make sure AA was well represented in the parade, I'm compelled to tell you about the Diversity of a Dream. I never imagined how many stories this single event would unfold, including the surprising American Airlines connection.
The MLK Society selected "Honoring our Heritage and Inspiring Change" for this year's parade theme. The American Airlines float featured pictures of several past and present African American inventors, writers, musicians, entertainers canvassed on a beautifully decorated U.S. flag. Then came the booming voice over the loud speaker of Dr. King reciting his moving, "I Have a Dream" speech. As I surveyed the crowd of on-lookers and participants, a rainbow of races, colors, ethnicities, gender, religion, life situations and generations, I realized this was the diversity dream Dr. King talked about. These were the dream weavers.
When we rounded the street corner there was one particular on-looker that stood out. As the float passed by I saw an elderly woman overcome with emotion, sobbing uncontrollably, oblivious to her own spectators, nor did she care. I could feel her pain, her sorrow and the joy that lay beneath. Her presence was so intensely moving that I clutched my heart. Instinctively, I knew this was no ordinary parade reveler. She was here because she was a dream maker. She represented my father, my mother, my grandmother, my great-grandfather, my teacher and so many more. Anyone who helped me achieve my present reality.
In this rare moment, I got it. Yet, in the telling words of my friend and colleague who just happens to be Caucasian commenting on the civil rights struggle, "I get it, I may not get it like you get it, but I get it ?" The same honest sentiment owed to all "I Have a Dream" visionaries.
Sadly, Dr. King died with his dream in his heart. He was assassinated at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., on April 4, 1968, at the age of 39. I recently learned that American Airlines transported the remains of Dr. King home in the passenger cabin of a Lockheed Electra. I take pride in knowing that I am a product of a dreamer. Also, I'm proud to say that I am an American Airlines employee.
Maybe American Airlines is not a perfect airline, nor are we perfect employees. But what AA represents is the business of being American, and extending that to our global environment, a citizen of the world.
A place where not only dreams of diversity come true, but futures do too.
By Cheryl Robinson